Can Advertising Be Too Creative?

March 22, 2013

Like most Americans one of my favorite days of the year Superbowl Sunday. The beauty of it is I can get together with my football friends and talk about the big game, or I sit there with my friends who aren’t interested in the game and talk about the real entertainment, the commercials.

Usually there are a couple commercials worth a few laughs. When in doubt Doritos just about always come through for a laugh.

In recent years I’ve heard complaints that the commercials aren’t as funny as they used to be. While that’s probably true, the biggest problem I’ve seen is the lack in promoting the actual product. The reason I love the Doritos commercials is because they’re simple, funny, and most importantly focus on the product. THAT is what’s most important. Every year has a Superbowl ad that everyone talks about (for better or worse) but still a lot of people don’t know what the company does. It’s about the ad, not the service.

I notice this problem most frequently with car ads. Two years ago the big Superbowl ad was the kid dressed up as Darth Vader. It was creative, entertaining, and very popular. But when you stop and think about it, how many people really knew what the car in the commercial was? I asked that question to a room of 30 classmates. Only 5 could tell me it was Volkswagen.

In 2012 there were two major car commercials featuring major celebrities. One featured Matthew Broderick in a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” type of setting, and another featured Jerry Seinfeld. Both were about cars, yet if you just showed them to a stranger who had never seen them before, they wouldn’t know what it was for. Broderick’s commercial was for Honda and Seinfeld’s was for Acura. While all of these commercials did feature the vehicles, it became more about the ad and less about the product, which in the long run doesn’t help boost sales. In essence it was too creative and got away from what the focus should be, which is the product.

It’s no secret creative advertising is a challenge. But with something like the Superbowl which costs $4 million a spot you need to make the most out of that investment. This holds true for all advertising. You could have the most creative idea around but if people don’t know what it’s for then it’s a waste. Especially if you’re a smaller company and need to stretch every advertising dollar. With a limited advertising budget the quality of your ad becomes more and more important. The creative needs to be something that gets a person’s attention but doesn’t take the focus away from the product. Finding that balance is key to successful advertising.